The Birth of Avalon Jane
I had many people tell me how beautiful pregnancy is. At first that was true. Near the end of my pregnancy, I wanted to punch them all.
Drew & I were expecting our baby to be born early, around 2-3 weeks early to be exact. My sisters both had early arrivals and I had heard that you’re more likely to be like your sisters rather than your mom when it comes to delivery. So, we were sort of expecting an early child and we took time off work for that. Her due date was March 23, 2012. So about the first week of March we’d have a baby, right? Nope.
Avalon’s due date rolled around and I was huge. I couldn’t see my feet, couldn’t roll over in bed, couldn’t get through an hour without peeing at least twice, had insane new stretch marks appear every day, was getting kicked over and over by my huge baby, had terrible dry cracking skin, was on a gestational diabetes diet, had the ornery hormones of someone you’d never want to meet, wanted to kill everyone I knew, etc. Pregnant women are a dangerous thing to come across. Freaking huge, bloated ornery Amy. I went to my midwife appointment expecting them to magically make my baby appear. Instead I got, “Many babies go past their due dates! It’s a natural wonderful thing! I’ve delivered 2,300 babies in my life and only 2.5% of those babies were C-section! She won’t be too big! Don’t you worry! Us midwives have our ways that get the baby here vaginally!” Keep that in mind for later. The Hunger Games came out on March 24, the day after my due date. I remember going to the movie with Drew, super excited that the movie had come out, and super pissed off that I wasn’t holding my baby in my arms yet. On the 24th, I was positive I would be pregnant forever. It felt like the baby didn’t want to come out, and all my hard work to keep a healthy pregnancy was a waste. I remember staring at the baby’s crib and crying. Yeah, hormones, but also sad sad uncomfortable Amy. I am so glad Drew was here with me to get me through this part. He was somehow able to deal with a dangerous woman, while handing her tissue after tissue and telling her everything was going to be okay.
I am not dumb, I know the risks for birth complications get higher when you pass your due date. The baby does get bigger, they can swallow their poopie and get infections, the placenta stops supporting the baby and starts to fall apart, and of course various other problems could happen.
A week after my due date, Avalon had still not made her arrival. Each day after the due date felt like a week. It was March 30th and I went back in to the midwives. I told her I wanted to be induced that day. She didn’t look worried at all, and was starting to TRY to talk me out of it. They ordered an ultrasound to make sure everything was looking okay. I knew inside that something wasn’t right, but try explaining that to a midwife who “knows everything.” The ultrasound showed that my baby was okay, measuring at an estimated 8 pounds 12 ounces, but the placenta was starting to deteriorate, and wasn't fully supporting my child anymore. This was a Friday. The midwife said I could go to the hospital on Monday and be induced. I said, “NO. TODAY.” So she finally agreed to let me go to the hospital that night at 10pm. I was so excited. Drew and I both couldn’t believe we were actually going to have a baby soon. My cervix was still shut tight and 60-70% effaced.
We arrived at the hospital at 9:45pm and stayed in the car and talked for a little bit. Then we grabbed our bags, the much needed iHome, and our secret snacks and headed in. I undressed, put a gown on, sat on the bed and started shaking. I was really nervous. I even got sweaty armpits. Drew calmed me down and we just went with the flow. A lady came in and did a really bloody job of putting my IV in. It hurt so bad but I reminded myself that much worse pain was coming my way, and it wasn’t a big deal anymore. The nurse told me I could have Ambien to be able to sleep through the night. I was really excited about that but she never brought the drug and I forgot to ask about it later. They had a schedule of drugs they would insert by my cervix every 4 hours that should make the cervix soften and start to open. I got my first one at 11pm. They said that some women would only need one pill and she would go into labor, but other women would need all four. After my fourth dose the next day, nothing had happened. The midwife told me she was fighting the hospital/their protocol to try and authorize more than the drug limit allowed. I told her I didn't want more of a drug my body wasn't responding to. Our room had temperature issues and it was freezing. The labor & delivery bed was not comfortable at all. Drew was by my side being loving and helpful in every way. He’s the one who got me through this. I started to become a little delirious, going in and out of sleep, not knowing what exactly was going on. The midwife came in and told me nothing was happening. My body didn’t want to go into labor. I asked her if it was safer to get a C-section at this point. I didn’t want a C-section, but if it was SAFER, then yes of course. Bring it on, right? The midwife smiled and never answered the question. She said we will do whatever we can to avoid a C-section. I wish I hadn’t trusted her. I wish I had demanded a C-section at this point. But I didn’t, I just obeyed and did my best to be a good patient. You can kick yourself over and over about things like this, but I am finally starting to come to terms with this.
I waited and waited. It was Saturday, I was still hooked up to the IV, still in pain, having contractions but not anything huge yet. The midwife came back in around noon and she had a doctor with her. (Drew was gone at this point, because I sent him home to get our Wii, I thought that if I played Dr. Mario, time would pass and I could get my mind off of things. It’s what I did all day, every day in the days leading up to me going to the hospital). The doctor asked if he could check me to see how my cervix was doing. He ended up manually dilating me to a 1. Know what that means? He had to force his finger into my cervix in order for it to start doing anything! It was the most painful thing ever. I regretted sending Drew to get our Wii, until of course he got back and hooked it up. Now that the cervix was at a 1, we had to wait for awhile for contractions to get bigger. After the doctor left, the midwife came back in and IMMEDIATELY broke my water. The temperature of the room was still an issue, so a nurse figured out how to fix the thermostat and the heat started happening.
My contractions got worse. I sat on a ball while Drew massaged my lower back and I rested my head on the bed. I tried a couple things to help with the pain, but went back to playing Dr. Mario with Drew. My cervix was still being retarded, so they hooked me up with some pitocin. Contractions got even worse. I was shaking uncontrollably and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop. Finally I asked for the epidural. The anesthesiologist was older and so kind. I told him I loved him. He told me I could swear. So I said the F-word because why wouldn’t I? I never wanted to get the epidural, I actually wanted a completely drug-free birth. But all that goes out the window when you’re past your due date. You get to the point where you just want your baby alive, healthy, in your arms, no matter what the cost.
Around 8pm that night, I think my cervix was around 4 cm. It has to be 10cm to start pushing. I fell asleep, and pressed my “give-me-more-epidural-juice” button whenever I wanted. I woke up around 11pm and the room was burning hot. My hair was wet and matted all over the place, Drew was sweaty too, turns out I had a fever. Great right? My water’s been broken for 11 hours, starting to introduce infection, now I’ve got a fever, also starting to introduce infection, and I had like 25 or 40 vaginal exams to see how I was dilating. Or wasn’t. Whatever. The vaginal exams can also introduce infection. The nurse that night didn’t know what she was doing, and every time she gave me an exam, she would bring in another nurse to double-check if her guess was right on how far I was dilated.
FINALLY, at 3:15am on Sunday morning, the midwife checked me and said I was dilated to 9.5cm. There was a tiny part of the cervix that she wanted to move before I started pushing. She said within the hour I would deliver my baby.
I started to panic a bit, because with all the drugs I was on, the amount of time I had been in bed, the unexplainable exhaustion I felt, all of those things added up together and told me there was no way I could even try to push. I was so scared. I started to mentally prepare myself for the delivery.
The midwife was doing a C-section with a doctor in another delivery room, and I had to wait until 8:15am before they let me push.
I had this ridiculous fear of pooping when I was pushing my baby out. It just seemed like it was the most embarrassing thing that could happen. But right before I started pushing, I suddenly didn’t care if diarrhea were to spray all over the midwife.
I had a very serious emotion come over me. I knew things weren’t right. I knew that my baby or me may not make it. I knew there were infections and countless complications. And right then, I made a very important decision. I told myself I could do it. I told myself that my life didn’t matter anymore, my baby’s life mattered. I told myself I would push harder than I could imagine, and I would follow the instructions given to me exactly. My very last thought was, “If I die in this room, I will at least get my daughter here.” It was an extremely emotional last few moments before the pushing began. I’ve never been good at sports or anything athletic and I didn’t trust my body when it came to pushing out a baby, so this was a very good turning point for me.
Drew held my left leg up and the nurse, Summer, held my right leg up. I was supposed to take a very fast breath in, then push as hard as I could for a duration of ten seconds, and then relax. The nurse watched my contractions and told me when I could push. I still remember the intensity of the situation. The nurse was counting loudly, the midwife was screaming crap about how well I was doing. Drew was saying, “You’re doing great! Keep going! Oh my gosh! I can see her!” I really did surprise myself, I know I did a good job thanks to the help of adrenaline and my new positive mindset. Everything was such a blur, I said stuff that wasn’t coherent, I used the oxygen mask by choice, I didn’t scream at all. I just remember that between pushes, I would completely relax, fall back into the bed and I was dead to the world until the next contraction. Drew fed me little ice cubes to help my dry throat and it helped immensely. He also changed the song when I demanded it. At this point, we were listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Important detail. Probably.
The midwife said, “I can see her hair! It’s blonde and curly!” We later found out that the cleaner they were using was making her hair look blonde. I was so excited that there was a real baby coming out of me! Drew was so excited, I remember glimpses of his face when I looked up at him. He was just so happy. I requested to not watch in the mirror because I wasn’t sure how much gore/blood I could stomach if I saw it. I wanted to stay as focused on pushing as I could. The pain was really weird, because I had to lay on the same side for 9 hours through the night, due to cord compression. The nurse kept saying, “Baby likes it if you lay on that side!” I was thinking, “…shut up… Just. Shut. Up.” So from laying on that side, the epidural wasn’t as effective on that entire side of my body. It was full of weird tingles as well as pain. There’s a spot during pushing that I don’t remember, I was very focused and ignoring everything around me. It was more intense than a dreamer’s world. I know my baby’s head was almost out at that point. Drew said it looked like a subway sandwich. Her head finally came out and her shoulder was stuck. The nurse pressed on my uterus with lots of force as I pushed even harder to get Avalon here. She finally was born at 9:50am. I looked up and saw a purple baby as the midwife screamed, “SHE’S LIMP!” I went into complete panic immediately and zoned out. I closed my eyes so many times and kept trying to keep them open. I didn’t want to hold another dead baby, my little brother died before birth and I held him when I was seven. At age seven, I knew that I didn’t want to hold another dead child, ever, ever again. I saw a nurse slam her hand on a button on the wall in front of me. The midwife put the baby on my lower stomach and said to Drew, “Cut the cord, HURRY!” He cut the cord and was surprised at how thick it was. Things went black and I opened my eyes again to see like 20 people dressed in dark blue scrubs rushing around my room, working on reviving my baby in the corner of the room. I was in a state of complete shock. I opened my eyes again another time and it was my midwife holding the umbilical cord saying, “Wow! That’s a healthy huge cord!” I remember thinking, “Great. I don’t give a f…., where is my baby?” Someone told me they were going to take my baby to the NICU. I wanted to hold her so bad, and I still hadn’t even seen her face. I also wanted to do skin to skin time with her, but that wasn’t an option anymore either. She was 8 pounds and 4 ounces heavy, and 20.5 inches long. She was born to Pink Floyd’s song, Mother.
So in the corner of the room, Avalon was revived and I heard her cute brand new little voice cry. The stuff she had swallowed had been taken out of her airway (not poop, I think it was a blood clot or something), and she was now breathing irregularly, as well as having an irregular heart rate. They said half the muscles in her face were paralyzed, everything on her right side wasn’t working up to par. The shoulder being pulled during delivery had pulled on a nerve somewhere. She also had an infection. They swaddled her up in a blanket and put her on my chest for about 10 seconds so I could look at her. Avalon smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen when she looked at me. That smile got me through the rest of the week. After those 10 seconds, they whisked her away to the NICU and half the team kept working on various things in the room.
I sent Drew with Avalon, because she knew his voice and I didn’t want her to be alone. I remember a new nurse asking me if there was anything I needed. I said, “water.” They couldn’t understand me so I screamed it louder. They still didn’t understand me so I started crying. For a split confused moment I thought my throat would dry up completely. I motioned to the cup of melted ice behind her and she gave it to me. That was the best water I ever had.
This part of my life felt like I had conquered death, that I had gone through the worst thing I will ever have to go through, and I actually made it. Ninety-five percent of my thoughts were on Avalon, will she be okay? Is she going to die? Is it my fault? Will she be handicapped? Paralyzed? And then I kept getting this weird feeling coming over me, because before I started pushing, I had made the decision that I was actually okay with dying. I had completely accepted the idea of death, and what’s weirder is I was okay with it. And after giving birth and still being alive, I was just plain surprised. Above everything I wanted to be able to hold and take care of my little girl.
I was told to relax and sleep because I was exhausted and shaking uncontrollably, so I did. I remember the midwife saying to the nurse, “Bring me the hemorrhage kit, now.” I went out for awhile and remember them saying, “We need to cut off her gown. Help me with this side.” My body was moved around a lot by the team of people and I couldn’t do anything about it. They had a lot to clean up and there was no way I could help with that. I had fallen asleep during complete chaos and two hours later I woke up to silence. I was alone in the labor and delivery room and equipment from the team was scattered everywhere. I saw a picture text message from Drew, and it was Avalon with a bunch of cords all over her and she was looking to the side and smiling. I was so happy and I studied that picture for a long time. Not knowing if things will be okay is a scary feeling, and I started to cry a lot, and I called my mom. I couldn’t even get words out. She asked what happened and I started to reflect on what really did happen in my mind. I couldn’t understand the intensity of everything. I was all tears. My mom said, “Do you want me to come and sit with you so you’re not alone?” I said, “Yes!” She arrived at the hospital shortly after that and I gave the front desk the O.K. for her to come back into the labor and delivery room. I had been alone with many machines and random equipment scattered all over the room for a couple hours, and it was good to have emotional support after the trauma earlier.
A nurse came in awhile later and she was very kind, her name was Erin, and she told me she was going to put me in a wheelchair and take me to the NICU to see my daughter. She looked at my atrocious hair a couple times and then asked, “Can I put it in a pony tail for you?” I thought it was cute of her to care about my appearance for me. It was hard to sit up straight while she brushed my hair, I didn’t have even a tiny bit of strength after I gave every last bit I had to the birth. When I saw my little Avalon in the NICU, I felt so bad for what she had gone through. She was so adorable, and I was so scared for her. I have to admit, I was in such a state of shock that I wasn’t excited about my daughter being born until I was allowed to take her home, eight long days later. Those eight days were Hell, and in my mind, my daughter was not okay until she was in my home with my husband and I. I hated being the standby parent, while the nurses told me the ways I was allowed to take care of her, ways I should change her diaper, hold her, feed her, bathe her, etc. All of my parenting was being done by the nurses and it broke my heart. I know Avalon wanted me to be there for her, and I was there as much as I could be. Nurses sent me home a lot because they said I needed rest.
They were worried that she would have meningitis and or mental retardation, and they asked for my approval for her to have a spinal tap done. I said it was okay. Later, they found too much blood in the cerebral spinal fluid and we authorized a CT scan which showed bleeding on the brain. They said it was excellent if the blood started to reabsorb, future scans would show less blood meaning her risks were lower. If the amount of blood showed the same or higher, she would have to go to Primary Children’s Hospital and get it suctioned out. Over the next few days, she had more MRI’s and CT scans. The blood was reabsorbing into the body and we are so grateful for that. She had an EKG done for 36 hours at our request because we were worried about seizure activity in the womb and we wanted to monitor her brain activity. The nurse practitioner, Kari, was my favorite person at that entire hospital. She was the first person to be open and honest with me, answering ANY question I had. In the medical field you start to really value people like that. Other people don’t want to answer your questions, they kind of brush you off or shut you up. I told Kari that if Avalon was handicapped, I was okay with it and I would do whatever I could for her. Kari told me she appreciated my honesty and she had a good feeling about Avalon. Kari told me, “When I rushed into your labor and delivery room when the signal was called, after assessing the situation I knew immediately that your baby would be okay. I was more worried about the state of the mother. I hoped you’d be able to pull through and I am very glad you did.” It was kind of nice to hear her say that, confirming that yes, I had been through something difficult and I am lucky to be here. I was allowed to hold Avalon two times the day after she was born. That night, I walked for the first time, and it was HARD. I was breast pumping every three hours around the clock for twenty minutes each time to get my milk to start coming in. Drew was so kind, he would hand me the little pump bottles and shields that he cleaned from each time I had pumped. On the fourth day after her birth, they let Avalon try non-nutritive breastfeeding, where I pump first and then we try to get her to latch. That little girl was hungry and she did a great job at latching on. Having her latch onto the breast did the trick, my milk came in that night. I was allowed to feed her the next day and it was so adorable to be able to watch her eat and bond with me. Drew was excellent at helping me get her to latch the right way. He was smiling ear to ear when he heard her little suckling sounds.
Drew did some skin to skin time with Avalon in the NICU and I can tell it did wonders for her. She needed that daddy time and it was adorable to witness her snuggly reaction to him. Drew read her a story and she paid attention like she was six months old. She looked at each page he was reading, and watched him turn the pages too. She quietly listened and was very content. It melted my heart to watch them react together, and I got a few pictures of the storybook time. I always wanted my husband to be attentive and good with children, and Drew is that plus much more. I am very grateful that my sweet daughter has Drew for a daddy.
Avalon had to get seven days worth of antibiotics in the NICU through her IV’s. She was amazing at pulling her IV’s out and she ended up getting a PIC Line installed on the second or third day during her stay. She also had a 24 cm long gavage (spelling? It’s a French word!) tube going down to her stomach. One day, she got a hold of it when the nurse was away and pulled it out! She kept pulling and pulling until it was all the way out. I love that about her. She was very feisty at the NICU and she let the nurses know it. The nurses would say things like, “Oh, good thing you’re here! She’s been cranky!” And I would think, “Oh she just hates you for putting all those cords on her.” It made me laugh, she was cranky and terribly behaved for the nurses and she was amazingly angelic for Drew and I. When a nurse came close while I was holding Avalon, she would squirm and fuss.
The seventh day at the NICU, Drew and I got to stay at the hospital in the NICU hotel-like room. Avalon was in her plastic bassinet thing that they wheeled in the room. She still had some cords attached to her, but we were able to spend our first night together as a family. It was an adjustment and she did cry more than I expected, but it was the happiest time I had since I was admitted to the hospital nine days earlier. The nurses could be buzzed in if I needed anything. This was the first time I didn’t feel like I was being watched/babysat by a nurse. Having privacy was amazing. Avalon breastfed all night and she was successful.
The eighth day, Avalon was allowed to go home with us. I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy and so was Drew. It was a very happy day. I remember that Drew put her car seat on the coffee table when we got into the house and we looked at each other with big smiles and said, “Now what?” Now we can live our new lives!
I wish that midwives weren’t so worried about keeping a low C-section rate and being able to pride themselves on that. What I wish is that midwives had a low rate of babies ending up in the NICU. If the midwife had authorized a C-section, Kari told me that Avalon would have been 100% healthy and she never would have had to go to the NICU. That was hard to hear because I knew inside that I should have demanded a C-section when I was delirious. I just have to remind myself that everything did work out in the end, even though the journey was traumatic and hard.
Avalon and I both couldn’t get through this event without the support Drew gave us both. Drew was there whenever I needed him. He helped me stand up and take the 3 steps to the bathroom when I needed to go. He even changed my pads when I was too weak and shaking too much to do it. He handed me every drug dose I needed, even during the middle of the night. He helped me get dressed, helped me walk, helped me get to the car, carried all the bags we had to take back and forth. I could not have done this without him. I could see the immediate connection Avalon and Drew made with each other when he got to hold her. Such a special bond, something that you could never replace. This experience has opened my eyes and has given me a new appreciation for life. Life is such a fragile thing, something I will never take for granted. The new love I share with my daughter is so amazing, I never could have imagined how powerful it would be. I am so happy my daughter made it and that she is healthy.
I had two extreme bleeding episodes later that month and I had to go to the emergency room. The second time I went to the ER (on April 29th), I got a D & C surgery. That fixed my bleeding problem and I finally started to recover properly.
Avalon is perfect and Drew and I couldn’t be happier.